Nigeria's cocoa output will likely rise to 295,000 tonnes this season, up 5.4 percent from last season, after late rains in October and November helped pod formation, the head of the country's private sector cocoa association said on Monday.
Cocoa season in Nigeria, the world's fourth biggest producer, runs from October to September, with an October-to-February main crop and a smaller light or mid-crop that begins in April or May and runs through September.
"Our initial forecast was a drop, we were expecting 240,000 tonnes. But two months of favourable weather ... has brought about cherries that have grown into pods. That's enough to give us an increase in production," Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) president Sayina Riman told Reuters.
Last season yielded 280,000 tonnes, short of a 300,000 tonnes estimate as dry weather in 2014/15 hindered the development of the mid-crop, Riman said.
The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) gives much lower estimates of Nigerian cocoa output, however. It forecast last season's production at 210,000 tonnes.
Riman did not give a reason for the discrepancy. Nigerian government production figures are also significantly higher than ICCO estimates.
Farmers were optimistic for the main crop because of the late rains which could push the 2015/16 harvest up to March, he said adding that cocoa trees were shedding fruits before now due to dry weather. But intermittent rainfall with sunshine since October was helping the beans.
"Cocoa is flowering now and bringing new leaves. Those flowers most of them will turn to pod that will come up for February/March harvest," said Emmanuel Ajayi, who owns five-hectare cocoa farm in Ondo State, Nigeria's main grower.
In Nigeria's second-biggest grower Cross Rivers, another farmer. Atangba, feared output may be affected if the rains stopped and was hoping for it to continue so that bean formation will not be disrupted.
Africa's biggest economy is working on agricultural commodities, including cocoa, to help plug shortfalls from oil revenues which has been hammered by low crude prices. But it faces stiff challenges to boost production.